Millions of years ago, the world was a lot different. This steamy, volcano-laden landscape is where the long-necked Diplacusis wandered. Diplacusis was so big, due to its long tail and neck, that no other predators were a threat.
Actually, Diplodocus is the long-necked dinosaur from the Jurassic Period. When you’re hearing two sounds at the same time, that’s a hearing condition known as diplacusis.
While it’s not a “horrible lizard,” in many ways diplacusis can be a menace on its own, causing a hearing experience that feels confusing and out of sorts (frequently making communication difficult or impossible).
Perhaps your hearing has been a little strange lately
Typically, we think of hearing loss as our hearing becoming muted or quiet over time. Over time, the story goes, we just hear less and less. But there are some other, not so well known, types of hearing loss. Diplacusis is one of the stranger, and also more frustrating, of these hearing problems.
What is diplacusis?
So, what’s diplacusis? Diplacusis is a medical name that means, pretty simply, “double hearing”. Usually, your brain will mix the sound from your right and left ear into a single sound. That’s what you hear. The same thing occurs with your eyes. If you put a hand on your right eye and then a hand over your left eye, you see slightly different images, right? Normally, with your ears, you don’t even notice it.
When your brain can’t effectively merge the two sounds from your ears because they are too different, you have this condition of diplacusis. You can develop diplacusis as a result of hearing loss in one ear (called monaural diplacusis) or both ears (binaural diplacusis).
Diplicusis comes in two kinds
Diplacusis doesn’t impact everybody in the same way. Usually, though, people will experience one of the following two forms of diplacusis:
- Diplacusis echoica: With this, what you hear will seem off because your brain gets the sound from each ear out of sync with the other instead of hearing two separate pitches. This might cause echoes (or, rather, artifacts that sound like echoes). This can also cause challenges when it comes to understanding speech.
- Diplacusis dysharmonica: When the pitch of the right and left ear are off it’s a sign of this type of diplacusis. So the sound will be distorted when someone speaks with you. Perhaps your right ear thinks the sound is low-pitched and your left ear hears the sound as high-pitched. This can make those sounds difficult to understand.
The symptoms of diplacusis could include:
- Phantom echoes
- Off pitch hearing
- Hearing that sounds off (in timing).
That said, it’s useful to think of diplacusis as similar to double vision: Yes, it can produce some symptoms on its own, but it’s normally itself a symptom of something else. (In other words, it’s the effect, not the cause.) In these cases, diplacusis is nearly always a symptom of hearing loss (either in one ear or in both ears). As a result, if you experience diplacusis, you should probably schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.
What are the causes diplacusis?
The causes of diplacusis line up rather well, in a general sense, with the causes of hearing loss. But there are a few particular reasons why you could develop diplacusis:
- Your ears have damage related to noise: If you’ve experienced enough loud noises to damage your hearing, it’s possible that the same damage has brought about hearing loss, and consequently, diplacusis.
- Earwax: In some instances, an earwax obstruction can interfere with your ability to hear. That earwax obstruction can trigger diplacusis.
- An infection: Inflammation of your ear canal can be the result of an ear infection, sinus infection, or even allergies. This inflammation is a normal immune response, but it can impact the way sound waves move through your inner ear (and therefore your brain).
- A tumor: Diplacusis can, in rare situations, be the result of a tumor in your ear canal. Don’t panic! They’re normally benign. Nevertheless, it’s something you should speak with your hearing specialist about!
As you can see, diplacusis and hearing loss have many of the same common causes. This means that if you’re experiencing diplacusis, it’s likely that something is interfering with your ability to hear. So you should definitely come in and see us.
Treatments for diplacusis
Depending on the root cause, there are a few possible treatments. If you have an obstruction, treating your diplacusis will focus on clearing it out. However, diplacusis is often brought on by irreversible sensorineural hearing loss. Here are a few treatment options if that’s the situation:
- Hearing aids: The correct set of hearing aids can neutralize how your ears hear again. Your diplacusis symptoms will gradually fade when you take advantage of hearing aids. You’ll want to talk to us about finding the right settings for your hearing aids.
- Cochlear implant: In cases where the hearing loss at the root of diplacusis is profound, a cochlear implant may be the only way to provide relief from the symptoms.
All of this starts with a hearing assessment. Here’s how you can think about it: whatever type of hearing loss is the source of your diplacusis, a hearing test will be able to determine that (perhaps you just think things sound weird at this point and you don’t even recognize it as diplacusis). Modern hearing assessments are very sensitive, and good at detecting discrepancies between how your ears hear the world.
Hearing well is more fun than not
You’ll be better able to enjoy your life when you get the appropriate treatment for your diplacusis, whether that’s hearing aids or some other treatment. It will be easier to talk to people. It will be easier to communicate with your family.
Which means, you’ll be able to hear your grandchildren tell you all about what a Diplodocus is, and you (hopefully) won’t have any diplacusis to impede you.
If you believe you have diplacusis and want to have it checked, call today for an appointment.